What's Your Issue, Cuz?
#WhatsYourIssueCuz is a series to highlighting the true stories of Black people living with mental illnesses. This piece includes discussion of post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD) and references the physical and sexual abuse of a minor.
“She’s curious, spontaneous, unpredictable, messy, brutally honest, and at times a handful. Sometimes she needs a timeout but I’m mentoring her and teaching her how to prosper through the pain she didn’t have the opportunity to heal from so long ago.”
This may sound like someone you know or even yourself, but this is how a thirty-year-old reader described her mental health while living with post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD).
Mental health within the Black community has always been a difficult conversation. This reader believes it isn’t a new thing, but a natural result of the distress Black people have endured throughout history. “History has taught us to suffer in silence or be killed or beat down for overcoming it. The only way our community can address the ‘taboo’ is by freeing ourselves from the mental slavery of suffering,” she stated.
These words resonated deeply within me. I began to question my own plight as a Black woman. It made me ask simple but piercing questions like: “Was I only built as a vessel to carry pain? Was this the secret pledge Black people took in another lifetime? How do Black people deal with healing when no one wants to even acknowledge the pain?”
The reader acknowledged her pain, but it took a while. She expressed,”College was the first time I was completely on my own and with my own thoughts, influence and truths- the beautiful and ugly ones...I had to ask myself, who the f**k am I?”
Isn’t that a question we’ve all asked ourselves at least once? Who we are? Especially when we feel alone and our identity is stripped away.
Our unique experiences, good and bad, mold us into our current selves. It’s a self we sometimes don’t even recognize. This reader’s experience made her unrecognizable to herself for years.
While most kids played with imaginary friends, she lived the reality of having her innocence taken from her at an early age. She was sexually and physically abused by her neighbor. It started when she was seven years old and continued throughout her adolescence. This resulted in her struggling to develop self-love and healthy relationships. She shared,” l struggled with people pleasing. I put up with people mistreating me, misusing me, and downright being straight assholes.”
The reader continued to recount that her people pleasing became too much and led to her feeling out of control. As a result, she sought help, but revealed “I really did not think a therapist could help me but what else could I do? I felt out of control, like I was watching my life and not participating in it.”
Growing up “old school”, the reader lived by the popular Black proverb “what happens in this house, stays in this house.” Initially, she feared that talking to a stranger about her life would make her become someone’s poor lil’ Black girl.
Personally, I shared those same fears with her. I felt that going to a therapist confirmed that I was losing my mind. I wondered, “How could I talk to a stranger about my life when I didn’t even feel comfortable talking with my family and friends?”
For this reader, attending therapy was the turning point. She began peeling back the layers of who she was and started the long process of healing. She believes that working with a therapist now helps her to identify unhealthy behaviors and actions that she wasn’t fully aware of before.
She conveyed, “We’re all on a journey of self-discovery, some more than others. I like to believe that I’m the explorer and my therapist is my navigator. As the explorer I see all the options of (mental, emotional) places (behaviors) I could go, but my therapist is the person who guides me to the right paths.”
Sometimes growth can only be accomplished by replanting ourselves in a more fertile and healthy soil. Although she is glad that she is on the journey of healing and attending therapy, she is very adamant about the fact that her growth (mental, emotional, and spiritual) is taking a lot of work.